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This Russell Westbrook Play Is Everything That's Great About The Thunder

One fundamental tenet of basketball is that the best way to break a press is to not let the ball hit the floor. Another fundamental tenet is that, when you have a point guard like Russell Westbrook, you get the hell out of the way.

The most phenomenal moment of this play (press the HD button on the player for a better look) is when Westbrook busts the first trap at midcourt. Outwardly, it looks as if he's splitting an unexpected trap through pure instinct — but if you watch it a few times it seems more as if he's inviting that trap, sandbagging a little and preparing for the first spin move before the pressure even arrives, because he knows exactly what he's going to do with it.


Westbrook and the Thunder beat Denver last night, 106-89. The play was just two points in a blowout, but I'm not sure there's a better demonstration of Oklahoma City's arrival as an elite NBA team, one that mixes recklessness and calculation in equal parts. A lot has been said this year about just how young this Oklahoma City team is, and just how inexperienced the Thunder are in postseason play, and just how much they tend to depend on All-Stars Westbrook and Kevin Durant, and how all that means we won't see OKC advancing past teams like San Antonio and Los Angeles. It's probably true. But George Karl had reason for saying to reporters before the playoffs started that he'd prefer facing a veteran, experienced team like Dallas in the first round than the Thunder.

In all likelihood, they'll get the Spurs next, and it isn't a stretch to see them doing to San Antonio this year what they did to Los Angeles last year. That means we've still got a handful of games remaining to see Westbrook spinning and leaning in the lane just so, and somehow twirling the ball into the hoop. I don't know if he's quite leading a revolution, as the SI cover claims, but he can damn well lead a fast break.

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